Binghamton University is a school where students complain about a lack of spirit and engagement. It is as if a common bond forms between students over complaining about BU, rather than sharing a common love for it. It’s possible that this lack of involvement stems from a disunion between campus and the party culture of Downtown Binghamton.
Imagine walking out of your dorm room and being within a six-minute walk of your favorite fraternity or bar. Imagine being able to walk to class from your apartment or house and not have to map out a strategic plan of attack to get a parking spot. You don’t have to venture to Happy Valley to see this vision, but instead you can venture up Interstate 81 and see it for yourself at the close-knit college community of SUNY Cortland.
Cortland has an entire college neighborhood that’s just a quick walk from campus and totally dedicated to student life. There, students can walk to campus, restaurants and bars, and host events together, even if one person lives on campus and the other off campus. When I asked my friend who attends Cortland about her experience, she described it as the college ideal. At her house, she’s a two-minute walk to bars on Church Street and a five-minute walk to class on campus. She feels that this proximity fosters a better relationship between students.4
Students at Cortland love going to school there, and constantly show their pride in events like Cortaca. Having a football team would make this more feasible at BU, but what’s a a rowdy Saturday tailgate without a close-knit college community in the first place? Basketball games and other sporting events are everywhere at BU — but when was the last time you went to a basketball game? It is not the lack of sporting, but rather a lack of collegiate spirit at BU.
Ideally, the surrounding areas of campus would be student houses and apartments, including a “Greek Row,” restaurants and bars, however, that just isn’t possible at BU right now. To supplement, the University should work to ensure students living off campus never really feel like they’re off. They could do this by having more events Downtown, expanding the University Downtown Center and by increasing free transportation to and from BU’s main campus.
School pride seems to be a staple of virtually all college towns. This seems obvious given that students are around the school of their choice at all times, while also being free from the restraints of living on campus. In a college town, everywhere is basically campus — just without the babysitting. Even without a football team, BU can still foster pride by fostering a greater sense of college community by bridging the gap between on and off campus.
Gunnar Jurgensen is a junior majoring in political science.